How To Do A Proper Deadlift

What is Deadlift? 

Deadlift is one of the three powerlifting exercises along with the squat and bench press. The deadlift is a weight training exercise in which a loaded barbell or bar is lifted off the ground to the level of the hips, then lowered to the ground.

Proper Form

The deadlift can be broken down into three parts:-

Setup :

  • Set up behind the bar with it touching or nearly touching the legs.
  • Begin by hinging at the hips and knees, setting one's weight predominantly in the heels while maintaining flat feet.
  • Spine stays long and straight as hips hinge back, taking care not to allow knees to track forward over one’s toes.
  • Gripping the bar outside of the legs, a lifter will depress their shoulders away from their ears in an effort to load the lats and generate force throughout their erectors.

Drive :

  • Keep the muscles of the back contracted tightly in order to maintain a safe posture throughout the motion.
  • Drive up and forward with the hips and legs to stand erect and lift the bar.
  • Take a deep diaphragmatic breath and hold it in during the movement, thus creating an outward pressure on the core to further stabilize the lumbopelvic-hip complex and core throughout the motion.

Lockout :

  • Finish by driving the hips completely into the bar and getting as tall as possible. Contract the glutes while shortening the rectus abdominis to finish the movement with the pelvis in a neutral position.
  • Contracting the glutes as well as the abdominal muscles is critical for low back health and safety.

Lowering the weight:

Finishing a deadlift is simply performing these same steps in reverse order. As the muscles of the back and core must remain tight throughout the motion, one should simply hinge at the hips and knees to bring the weight down. Lowering their chest towards their knees while keeping the bar close is the safest way to ultimately complete the motion.

Common Errors

There a few common errors during the performance of the deadlift.

  • Back is rounded or arched: during the deadlift, the back should be flat with the spine neutral. If a lifter arches the back, either rounded or arched, the load shifts and can place too much stress or pressure on the back, which may lead to injury. The head is included in the neutral spine and should not be arched or rounded either.
  • Shoulders are protracted: allowing the shoulders to come forward disengages the back muscles which stabilize the spine.
  • Jerking the bar: the slack should be taken from the bar by squeezing the back muscles first and straightening the arms. The bar should then be lifted in a smooth motion without jerking.
  • Squatting: the objective of a deadlift is to hinge the hips, knees will be slightly bent in the setup phase, but should not bend so deeply as to be a squat.
  • Too far from the bar: if the load is too far forward, the lifter may compensate by rounding the back or shifting the weight to the front of the foot. Both result in shifting what muscles are used and could cause injury.
  • Poor lowering of the weight: bending the knees too soon when lowering the weight can put pressure on the lower back. While there should be a very slight bend in the knees on the way down, bend the knees more fully (at whatever depth is needed to keep a neutral spine) once the bar has passed them on the way down.


Deadlifts can be performed using dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells with one hand or two hands & with one leg or two legs. Other variations are the side deadlift or suitcase deadlift, rack pulls, deadlift lockouts, deficit deadlift or deadlift from a box (pulling from the floor while standing on a built or improvised low platform). Each of these variations is called for to address specific weaknesses in a lifter's overall deadlift.


In order to prevent the bar from rolling out of the hands, some lifters have been known to use an Olympic Weightlifting technique known as the hook grip. This is similar to an overhand grip, but the thumbs are inside, allowing the lifter to "hook" onto them with the fingers. The hook grip can make it easier to hold heavier weights using less grip strength, and keeps both shoulders and elbows in a symmetrical position. While it theoretically takes much of the stress off of the joints which might be created by the twisting of a mixed grip it has the disadvantage of being extremely uncomfortable for the thumbs, something which those who advocate it says will pass once a lifter becomes accustomed to it. Another, but rarely used method is a combination of the mixed overhand-underhand grip and the hook grip, preferred by people who lift heavier weights than their grip can handle, but who don't want to rely on lifting straps or other supportive gear.

 Muscles Involved 

The deadlift is a compound movement that works a variety of muscles groups:

  • The grip strength (finger flexors) and the lower back (erector spinae) work isometrically to keep the bar held in the hands and to keep the spine from rounding.
  • The gluteus maximus and hamstrings work to extend the hip joint.
  • The quadriceps work to extend the knee joint.
  • The adductor magnus works to stabilize the legs.
  • Core musculature remains braced to stabilize the spine.

Deadlift Variations

There are numerous variations of the deadlift.

  • Stiff-legged deadlift
  • Romanian deadlift
  • Sumo deadlift
  • Trap bar deadlift